1968 was one hell of a year.
Politically there was the Paris Spring, Grosvenor Square London demos against the Vietnam war, myriad sit-ins and demos in the US against the Vietnam War, the beginnings of Hippiedom in the UK and across Europe and probably the greatest shift in the musical stratosphere since the beginning of Rock & Roll.

This 3cd set covers a heck of a lot of ground – much of it already represented in many compilations but a fair amount of tracks I have either never heard before of only remember dimly – well it was 51 years back.

What the music here brought to me was the sheer variety of music being produced in what came to be known as the Progressive Rock & Underground genres.
Bands who a couple of years before were turning out happy mod-oriented pop were discovering new instruments like the Mellotron and sitar, new influences such as LSD & marijuana and a whole new perspective on music creation.
In many cases it was an unmitigated disaster but the majority of tracks in this collection actually stand up pretty well over 50 years after they were created.

A fair number of the tracks here were major hits – ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’, Jeff Beck’s ‘Shape Of Things’, Love Sculpture ‘Sabre Dance’, Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band ‘Urban Spaceman’ Arthur Brown’s ‘Fire’ etc – but many were hardly ever heard in the years after 1968 and deserve a greater audience – Dantalian’s Chariot ‘World War Three’, Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera ‘Flames’. Many of the bands featured here went on to greater things – Genesis, Barclay James Harvest, Traffic – but at the time of these tracks they were hardly known at all.

Musically, 1968 was a breakthrough year.
Pop suddenly found a sense of “music to listen to” rather than just to dance to and this collection shows, pretty damn well, just how varied the songs were, how wide ranging the themes are and how much ‘experimentation’ was happening. It is also a great listen.
Play it to a modern youngster and watch their eyes light up at songs with melody, joyful mistakes and commitment.

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